As I've been living in the US again for one month and my MBA program at UC Irvine is about to start, it's about time to write about my adventures on the west coast, right?
My home, my car, my weather
Touchdown in Los Angeles
I live off-campus in central Irvine, which is located 40 miles south of Los Angeles. My neighborhood is very calm. I live together with two other students in a nice house. Of course I have my own room with refrigerator, microwave, toaster, tv, bed, desk, so everything I need, plus I have my own large bathroom! The next supermarket is a 5 minutes walk (but it's Ralphs and not Wal-Mart this time). I can either take the bus or the bike to university, both taking me about 20-30 minutes, which is ok. Although a bus runs only every hour, and neither in the late evening nor at the weekend. But yes, I don't have my rental car anymore and instead bought a cheap bike via craigslist. For travel purposes I can rent a car again, but I don't need it for commuting between campus and my living place, and I would also have to pay for parking at the campus every day. Using the bike is perfect with no cold winter upcoming and it helps to keep in shape :-) And as you know I hate car driving in the States anyway, this super cautious and super slow bullshiting can drive an impatient German like me crazy. I already thought it was horrible on the east coast, but here it is much worse, especially with those stupid stop signs EVERYWHERE! But you would have to experience it yourself to understand. Regarding the weather here: Yes, it's nice, most of the times blue sky and sunny. However, it's not so warm as expected, often around 25° during the day and below 20° in the evening, which is chilly, especially at the beach with stronger wind. Residents say that it is pretty unusual for this time period. But I don't mind, 25° is just perfect. At the beach, however, once the sun is gone it can get really cold and you need a jacket! I didn't expect that for September.
As you can see on the pictures, the campus is not so spectacular, but you feel comfortable there, it has a lot of green and it is not so large so you get around quickly. Most of my lectures will take place in the Paul Merage School of Business building. There is a big food corner right at the campus and as expected it is just a compilation of standard US fast food companies - Wendy's, Taco Bell, Starbucks, some pizza and thai stuff and so on. The lecture halls are noble and modern, plus they have sockets close to the seats!! (it is just unusual for me as WU student). I can print about 1500 pages b/w for free during the term, which is a lot. There are apparently 9 other exchange students with me from Austria, Hungary, France, Singapore, and some other Asian countries. However, I've only met 5 of them so far. I intend to take 4 courses (Competitive Intelligence, Experiential Learning, Global Strategy, Venture Capital & Private Equity). 2 of them for fun, 2 for my master's degree - so should be pretty relaxed, right. It is just a quarter term, starting next week and ending on 2th of December. I'm curious to see how it will be to study in an MBA program with older and more experienced students. We already met them once at a really nice beach BBQ get-together with bonfire in the evening at Corona del Mar (unfortunately I didn't take photos...), and all of them I met seem to be really ambitious, open-minded and interesting. I will have a lot of group works here as well, so I'll see whether they are as good as their GMAT average of 670 indicates ;-)
My travelling activities
Of course I used the first month to travel. I saw most of the beaches between LA and San Diego. The nicest ones are definitely Laguna Beach and Corona del Mar.
San Diego is a very nice little city with beautiful beaches. In LA I only went to Hollywood and Beverly Hills, there is not much more worth to see.
One day I went hiking to Palm Springs, just a 2-hours drive from my place. Unfortunately the weather was not good as it was raining most of the time, but of course that does not stop an ambitious hiker like me. First I had to use the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway to get to the starting point at 2596m. It ascends two and one half miles to a pristine wilderness and is the world's largest rotating tramcar.
However, this comes at a price: 24 US-Dollar! In addition, I was extremely annoyed by all these lazy American tourists without any proper hiking clothes, just using the expensive tram and then going to the restaurant at the station, instead of going for a hike, which should be the only reason to go there... So I quickly started my tour and as expected I had not much people traffic during my hike. For me it was a fairly easy hike of 2 hours to the top of Mount San Jacinto (3302m) and 1.5 hours down.
New York - US Open 2011
Then it was finally time to leave to New York - I got tickets for the US Open! Unfortunately the weather always starts to get worse in September on the east coast and so I really feared not seeing any match at all. There was not one single match on Tuesday and Wednesday of the second week as it rained the whole day. But when I landed at JFK it suddenly stopped raining!! Destiny I guess.
I saw the quarterfinal night match between Roger Federer and Wilfried Tsonga and both semifinals with the current top 4 players in the world (Roger Federer - Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal - Andy Murray).
And just a couple of days ago I visited the San Francisco area. Luckily I could stay at a friends place who is currently working at Stanford, thanks again! I loved San Francisco.
I guess it is now one of my favorite cities in the US, better than Boston or Miami. But I also were lucky to enjoy the city without it's famous fog on that day. Pier 39, Golden Gate Bridge and Sausalito is a must-see. My goal must be to live in Sausalito some day, the most expensive city in the US, with only 7000 people living there.
I used those tourist buses to get around in the city because unfortunately I did not have much time, but I guess it would have been better to rent a bike. The ferry to Alcatraz was booked out for the next two days. There was an awesome chocolate store at Pier 39, omg, I could have bought the whole store, everything looked so delicious!
Here you can watch videos I took during the US Open and at Pier 39:
Yosemite National Park
The next day I went to Yosemite Valley, a must for me of course. Starting at 5am in the morning it was a 4 hours drive. As I also wanted to drive along the famous Tioga road that day I had only about 6 hours for hiking, but of course I wanted to see as much as possible and all the tours suggested were way too boring for me. So I came up with my own challenging tour, which is as follows:
Four Mile Trail (1220m) - Glacier Point (2199m) - Sentinel Dome (2476m) - Panorama Trail - Nevada Fall (1806m) - Vernal Fall (1558m) - Happy Isle (1230m)
Nevada Fall and Vernal Fall
above Nevada Fall
The tour was about 24km long with 1500m ascent and 1500m descent. You can read more about the tour in the hiking section of my website. Overall it took me 1.75 hours to Glacier Point, from there 40 minutes to Sentinel Dome, then 2.25 hours to Nevada Fall and another 1.25 back to the valley. Which is about 6.5 hours total with breaks, tough to beat and right on schedule! (please note that this route normally takes you about 9 hours and is quite strenuous - read the hiking section for more information). It was a great tour. I saw waterfalls, the famous Half Dome and several animals (mule deers, ground squirrels, and a snake; but no bear). I also had the luck to see a rainbow within a waterfall, how awesome is that?
Back in the valley I drove along the famous Tioga Road (a panorama road across the national park), but it was not so special anymore. I guess for me at some point all those stony mountains looked the same and it does not appear to be high as the treeline is so high compared to what I'm used to in Europe (around 3400m), and there was no snow at all anymore. So I definitely prefer the Alps, they are much more exciting, challenging and diverse. But still it was a very nice day with a long hike.
Finally I took the opportunity to see the Stanford Campus; it's amazing! It takes you up to 30 minutes to walk from one end to the other and everything is nice and clean there. My campus at UCI can definitely not be compared with this one. Too bad it is not a partner university of the WU ;-)
As always you can find more pictures of my travels in the Gallery.
Overall a very varied and exciting first month. Still, what is missing on my TODO list? Right! Las Vegas and Grand Canyon. But I will only go there in November.